Lightening in a Bottle

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I suppose you could also call this post "Saving the Garden's Goodness," but anything with a bolt from the blue is a little more catchy -- don't you think?

Venus and I have now officially taken the next step in our quest to be the best heirloom gardeners we can be. Yes, I'm pleased to announce that we are now, officially, at NERD status. It's taken some time and a lot of work. But we finally reached that lofty status last night.

One of the worst things about gardening is this: No matter how hard you work and how hard you plan, gardening season does come to a close. Tomato plants spit out their last tomato of the season and slowly die. Frost and cold weather sets in. No more treats from the garden. Oh sure, you can plant a fall garden. And don't get me wrong, because crisp greens and other fall garden produce is nice (I guess). But there's nothing quite like vine ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, you name it. Summer gardens are the bomb.

But, sadly, they do end.

So, in an effort to save as much as our summer goodness as possible, Venus and I officially turned to canning last night. And this is the result. Eleven delicious quarts of what I hope will eventually be the best garlicy-Dill Pickles known to man. We're not entirely sure what we're going to get yet, because this is the first time we've done this AND -- it's going to be at least eight weeks or longer before I can officially crack open one of these jars and see what we've done here.


I've been searching for pickle recipes for a long time. A co-worker gave me a sweet pickle recipe not all that long ago, but to be honest, Bill Bird isn't wild about sweet pickles. But, Bill Bird absolutely LOVES salty dill pickles with garlic and other spices thrown in to give it a little kick.

And that's why I just love the internet. Google the term "Dill Pickles" and watch what pops up. I found this recipe on www.allrecipes.com. It's old school (which is good), and the reviews told me that this dill pickle recipe was off the hook. I had told Venus last winter that I wanted to try this, and she talked me into it last night. The cucumber patch in the backyard is really starting to produce now, and we got more than enough to do the job. The recipe made enough for eight quarts of pickles. However, we wound up making eleven because -- well -- we had a bunch of cucumbers.


And this is how it starts out pretty much. After harvesting and washing our haul, we proceeded to soak these cucumbers in a batch of ice water. They needed to soak anywhere from two to eight hours --and we hit the midpoint -- about four hours. You can't really tell what's underneath those ice cubes, but trust me when I tell you that we harvested two gigantic Armenian cukes, about four or five Burpee Hybrid cukes and probably five or six Marketmore 76 cucmbers (a true pickling cucumber).

Based upon some previous advice, we saved the Armenian cucumbers for pickle slices, and used the Marketmore's and Burpee Hybrids for pickle spears and, in some cases, whole pickles.

We did alter the recipe somewhat. It called for 16 cloves of garlic -- cut in half. As you can tell by the photo to the left -- that's a lot more than 16 cloves. It was more like fifty. And rather than cut them in half -- I used the food processor to liquify those cloves into a fine paste. Liquifying garlic brings out the real taste and the real burn in garlic. Each jar got a little more than two teaspoons of garlic, so I imagine the "garlicy" part of these pickles should be pretty darn good.

Although this was a first for Venus and I, the project came off pretty well. After adding the spices, pickles and brine, we added the lids and tightened everything down. Although this recipe did reccommend boiling the filled jars in a bath for 15 minutes -- many reviewers who tried this recipe warned us: don't do it. Boiling the jars for 15 minutes may remove all bacteria -- but it also means a batch of soft pickles. We didn't want that. So, rather than boil the entire jar, we took the advice of another reviewer and turned the jars upside down in a frying pan with boiling water and boiled the already tightened caps for five minutes.

So, time will tell. We'll know just how good (or how bad) these things are by Labor Day. I don't think I'll be strong enough to wait the required eight weeks (I was trying to open one after eight hours before the wife clanged me on the head with a frying pan). But I can tell you this much. This is not the end of this project. Indeed, this is just the beginning. We'll do another batch of pickles before the summer season ends -- maybe two or three. And we'll do more than just pickles. There's my famous roasted garlic and heirloom tomato salsa to be bottled and saved, and Venus is growing green beans by the dozen and baby corn.

So, we're going to save a tad of summer in our pantry this year. When it's cold, wet and rainy outside, we'll crack open a jar of salsa and enjoy the Sunday afternoon football games.

And dream of next summer's garden -- of course.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Your jars of pickles look GREAT!!!

I'm going to try them myself using the same method. Thanks for sharing, and I've added your blog to my list of favorites so I'll be visiting again. I'm new to gardening and canning so I have alot to learn.
Thanks again,
Melissa